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Pushing the PC to the Speed of Light

By Fenella SaundersNovember 1, 2002 6:00 AM


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Computer components are shrinking, but the chips they sit on keep getting larger, creating information delays from one circuit to another. So electrical and computer engineer Kenneth O is creating a miniature wireless network to transmit data right across the chip. O and his graduate students at the University of Florida in Gainesville designed a microwave transmitter and a receiver, each about a tenth of an inch long. As a test, the researchers sent a synchronizing message called a clock signal. The device sent and received the signal across the chip and also between two chips almost an inch apart on a silicon wafer. Such near-instantaneous synchronization should allow engineers to make computer chips faster and more powerful. But O has even grander plans. "The really incredible possibility is building disposable, extremely small, extremely low-cost single-chip radios," O says. "You could put many of these guys together, and they could do things that an individual one cannot do." Combined with microphones, they could allow surveillance of a large area; combined with motion sensors, they could monitor a building for signs of strain or damage.

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